The Longest Week

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Chapter Four

After everyone had gathered in the Briefing Room, the General came out and presented the plan for their next move against Tempus. Her analysts had located one of the facilities where they were producing their tech, and she intended to raid it. The intention was to steal as much of it as they could and then destroy the rest. However, expecting it to be heavily guarded, she was going to lead the attack personally, and wanted nearly all of their top operatives to join her. Once we’d been dismissed, everyone set about preparing for the mission, and the bunker became a blur of activity.

“Don’t worry, kid, you’ll be safe here,” Jonah assured me after escorting me to an empty bunk room. I wasn’t sure if he did this out of kindness or to make sure I didn’t stumble upon any more of their unsettling secrets. “Just try to get some sleep and recover from the shock of everything that’s happened lately. We’ll be back by morning, and the General will probably want to have a more in-depth conversation with you before you start your training.”

“You know, the only time I’ve ever even fired a gun was at a turkey shoot my town had around Thanksgiving when I was a kid,” I said. “I don’t think I’m cut out for this kind of thing.”

“Look, most of us started off just like you. But you’re gonna have to learn how to take care of yourself. Even if you decide to hop back when the week’s over so you can stay home and keep away from this whole mess, it’ll only be a matter of time before Tempus finds you. One way or another, the fight’s gonna land on your doorstep, so it’s better if you’re at least ready when that time comes.”

“I guess that makes sense,” I admitted reluctantly.

“Course it does,” Jonah said with a grin.

“I was wondering - if you can see the future, why haven’t you just used your power to find out where Desmond is and take him out?”

“That’s not really how it works,” he answered. “I don’t see images or anything like that - it’s more of a gut instinct about what someone’s going to do or something that will happen. I also have to have some sort of connection to anchor my power onto, so if I don’t already know exactly where I’m trying to look, I can’t see what the person’s going to do. And the farther into the future I try to look, the more vague what I sense becomes.

“Like, I can tell you exactly what you’ll have for breakfast tomorrow, but if I try to see what you’ll eat next month, while I might be able to see you’ll have a bowl of cereal, I won’t know what specific type or brand. And if I try to look, say, six months into the future, all I’d be able to tell you is whether or not you’ll have breakfast at all.”

“Is what you see ever wrong?” I asked.

“The only times what I’ve seen and what happens is different have been when I’ve changed them, either personally or by giving someone information about the future.”

“That’s good. Thanks for telling me,” I said.

“Of course. Now go on and rest up. I gotta get going.” As he turned to leave, he added, “Oh, and there’s a storm blowing through the area right now. Don’t freak out if the power goes off. We’ve got generators that’ll kick it back on after a minute or two.”

“Hey, Jonah,” I called out before he departed. “Good luck.”

“Thanks, kid.”

*

Once the crew had departed, I made my way through the maze of corridors until I found the commissary and finally got some food in my stomach. After that, I spent the rest of the day in one of the bunker’s training rooms, doing my best to polish my skills with a firearm. I can’t say my aim improved much, but I was at least more comfortable handling a gun and got used to the way it feels when you fire it. My first attempt was a bit rough, as the recoil nearly wrenched the weapon out of my hand. A few hours later, I could barely keep my eyes open enough to even see the targets, so I figured I should grab forty winks.

I returned to my room and fell asleep, but it wasn’t a long or restful one. Despite how exhausted I was, I kept waking up with a heavy knot in the pit of my stomach. After lying in my bunk, failing to return to my slumber, I decided to get up and try to distract my overworked mind. I slipped out of the room, checking down the corridor for any signs of the few who remained behind in the safehouse, but the coast was clear. I didn’t really have a plan of action - I just figured I’d explore the place and see if I could get a better handle on what kind of operation these people were running.

I cautiously checked a few random doors that I passed, but thankfully there was nothing unsavory behind them. Nothing interesting, either, though. A few other bunk rooms, an empty holding cell, and a storage room filled with unopened cleaning supplies. I did my best to keep track of every turn I made so I could find my way back, but the uniformity of the hallways and doors made it difficult to really tell them apart. At some point, I must’ve gotten turned around, because the next door I opened happened to be my own bunk room.

I was just about to give up and return to bed when I noticed a few muddy footprints on the carpet. The floors out in the hall were already filthy, so a trail of mud wouldn’t have stood out, but Jonah had told me this room wasn’t being used by anybody else. I checked the soles of my boots just to be sure, and while they were caked with some dust and debris, there wasn’t any mud on them. The treads also didn’t match. I nervously glanced around, praying that I wasn’t about to be ambushed by a hidden assailant, but there wasn’t really anywhere for them to hide.

Any relief I normally would have felt was overpowered by the sense of dread knowing that someone had been in my room. I paced around for a bit, trying to piece together a plan in case whoever it was came back, but I didn’t get very far before the lights suddenly cut out. I froze for a moment, but remembered Jonah had mentioned the storm might knock out the power. The storm! It hit me like a ton of bricks - someone would have trailed mud into the safehouse if they’d been outside in the rain. And the General had specifically ordered a lockdown until they’d returned from the mission. There was an intruder in the bunker, and I had a sinking feeling about who it could be.

If Tempus had managed to infiltrate the safehouse, I couldn’t just sit there waiting for them to find me. I couldn’t be certain if they’d known this was the room I was supposed to be in, or if they were just checking everywhere, but I wasn’t going to just stay there and hope they didn’t come back. I was completely defenseless at the moment, so my only shot was to try to find something with which I could put up a fight. I was pretty sure I could find my way back to the War Room, where they had those wonderful walls full of weapons, so that’s where I needed to go.

I waited until the power came back on, and then I slunk back out into the corridor, moving as quietly as possible. Every moment I was out there made me feel increasingly exposed, but I couldn’t risk going any faster and alerting the intruder of my presence. When I finally reached the door to the War Room unscathed, I heaved a sigh of relief and opened it as slowly as possible, trying to keep the creaking from the gears to a minimum as I spun the wheel handle open. I pulled the door open and stepped inside, but I nearly wet myself again when my eyes fell upon the sight in front of me - everyone was dead.

Forgetting all about being silent, I rushed from body to body, desperately checking for any signs of life, but it was pointless. The crew manning the computers had been brutally slaughtered. I didn’t see any bullet or knife wounds - it looked like they’d been beaten to death with a sledgehammer. I rushed across the room towards the wall of weapons and the knot in my stomach tightened when I saw they’d been battered to bits. Kneeling down on the floor, I rummaged through the shards of metal and broken armaments in a frantic hunt for anything that might still be usable. All the way in the corner, I found a small handgun that looked to be intact and grabbed it. It was better than nothing.

I held the weapon out in front of me and could hear it rattling from how bad my hands were shaking, but I pressed forward and exited the War Room. The safehouse had become an enormous tomb, and I had no desire to let it be mine as well. If I could escape from the bunker, I at least had a chance of hiding out somewhere until I had some time to figure out what to do next. Right now, though, I just kept picturing what would happen to me if I got caught, and it wasn’t helping my already shredded nerves. I crept down the corridor, retracing the path Jonah had brought me down when we first arrived, but I didn’t get far before the sound of a voice behind me made me jump out of my skin.

“Hello, Maxwell Darby.”

I twirled around and fired, but the only thing I hit was empty space. I quickly turned back to check in the other direction, but nobody was there.

“A bit skittish, are we?” the voice said, punctuating his remark with a cackle.

I looked up and down the corridor again, still seeing nothing. That was when I realized the voice was coming from the intercom speaker back down the hall. I gave one more glance around before returning to the task at hand, but I quickened my pace a bit.

“I know you’re down here, Maxy-boy. A couple of your old friends are looking for you. Why don’t you be a dear and just give them a shout. You and Jonah have already given them enough of a headache.”

So it was the Bobs that killed those people. They’d already scared the heck out of me before, but now I was downright terrified of them. I thought about poor Henry, and how Jonah had said they’d only needed him to be barely alive, wondering how many hits from whatever weapon the Bobs had my body could take and still qualify as barely alive.

“Look, I’m sure Iris -- ahem -- I mean, ‘The General,’ or one of her flunkies have already told you who I am. If not, my name is Desmond. I’ve spent a long time helping people with special gifts, and now I want to offer my expertise to you. You’re special, Max. Well, special-er. Actually being able to go back in time and relive the past - it’s extraordinary! But there are limits to it, right? A couple of days? Maybe a week? I can help you go back farther than that, my friend. Much farther.

“Imagine what you could do if you were able to return to when you were just a wee lad! You’d have decades of experience and foreknowledge at your fingertips - you could build the life you’ve always dreamed of from the ground up without ever having to even use your abilities again! No more worrying about looking too suspicious if you suddenly became a stock market whiz or kept guessing the right lotto numbers, because everyone would just believe you’d been a tiny little genius from the start.”

I hated to admit it, but that did sound appealing. Not that I believed he actually could help me do that or had any intention of letting me go if I let the Bobs take me in, but his words hit close to home. I’d spent so much of my life alone, not wanting to get too close to anyone and risk them finding out what I could do. At best, any relationships I might have would always have the pall of suspicion hanging over it, wondering how one person managed to have so much luck. Or they’d just think I was a criminal of some sort.

When I first discovered my power, I didn’t have the foresight to use it to build a foundation for myself that I could use later in life. I was a decent enough student, and the idea of having to relive an entire week just to change the score on a math test from a “C” to an “A” didn’t seem worth it to me. Besides, at the time, I was more interested in using my abilities to have fun. In the summer between junior and senior year, I extended the break for myself from six weeks to four months, most of which was spent going to different parties held on the same nights. By the time I realized I could’ve used time travel to make sure I got into a really good college, it was far too late, as going back a mere week wouldn’t change anything.

“Think about it, Maxwell. My boys will bring you in one way another, so why not make it easy on yourself?” Desmond said.

That was thankfully the last I heard of him over the intercom, but creeping around in dead silence wasn’t a vast improvement. I was about to round the corner leading to the lift back to the surface when I heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming from that direction. Poking my head around just long enough to catch a glimpse of who was there, I immediately broke into a sprint back the way I came when I saw the two Bobs striding down the hallway. I turned back around and realized they were closing in on me fast, despite appearing to be walking at a casual pace, and I fired wildly in their general direction. Their heavy footfalls only ceased for a moment - if I actually managed to hit either of them, it clearly didn’t have much of an effect on their pursuit.

I rushed back down corridor after corridor, the suits still keeping up with me no matter how fast I ran. I saw the door to the War Room still hanging open and forced myself not to look inside as I passed, needing to stay focused on trying to escape. I was nearly to the end of the hallway when Bob appeared from around the corner with a grin plastered on his sharp face. Whirling around, I was about to take off away from him when the other Bob appeared, blocking my path that way. I dove for the nearest door, opening it as fast as I could, and slammed it shut once I was inside, turning the handle again and engaging the lock. That was when the foul stench hit my nostrils, and I realized where I was - I was back in Henry’s room.

Forcing myself not to regurgitate from the combination of disgust and fear, I backed towards the hospital bed holding the catatonic teleporter and hunched down behind some of the medical equipment, aiming my gun at the door. A loud thud echoed through the room. Then another. And another. I could hear the door’s hinges groan from the force of the whacks, and soon the only barrier between me and the Bobs was bending inward. With one final blow, the entire door crumbled and was knocked into the room. Standing there with bloody fists was Bob, flanked by other Bob. The terror of realizing that the only weapons they had on them were their fists made me gasp for air. There was no way out. They had me pinned in here like a rat about to be pounced on by a pair of vicious tigers.

“Come on out Max,” Bob said.

“Do not make us come in there to get you,” Other Bob sneered. “It smells bad, and it will put us in a foul mood if we have to go into this room. You would not like us when we are unhappy.”

“Can’t say I like you much now, either,” I called out, trying and failing to keep my voice from wavering. They simply laughed in response.

“Have it your way.” Bob turned to the other Bob and said, “Go get him.”

Other Bob balked at this and replied in a lower tone, “No. You go get him.”

“I just had to break down this door,” Bob hissed. “It will take at least an hour for them to heal. Now go get him, and if he refuses to come quietly…”

“Fine,” other Bob relented. He stepped through the doorway, and I could see his face wrinkle up from the fetid air. However, this didn’t impede his progress, and I only had moments before he’d be upon me. I vainly aimed my gun out from behind the machinery and pulled the trigger, but I didn’t need to check to see that the recoil had caused my shot to miss, hitting the wall near the ceiling. I tried aiming lower and fired again - this time there was a sickening squelch when the bullet made contact with Other Bob. Taking the opportunity to peer out from cover, I saw him sprawled out on the ground. By some miracle, I’d actually shot him in the head.

“That was unwise,” Bob growled. He sounded angry. I definitely didn’t like it. With a roar, he charged forward, ripping the heavy equipment out and tossing it aside like they were made of cardboard. I brought the gun about to fire, but he clamped his hand down around the barrel as I did, forcing it upward. The bullet went through his palm and came out the other side, but it didn’t seem to phase him. He yanked the weapon from my hand and threw it behind him before grabbing me around the throat. His grip tightened, and I could feel the blood in my head desperately trying to pump down to my heart. “You should have listened to us!” he sneered.

Bob slammed me against the wall, his fingers still squeezing me around my neck, and as my vision began to fade, I flailed around in a panic, trying to find anything to grasp onto. My fingers brushed against a tray sitting atop the table next to Henry’s bed, and out of the corner of my eye, I could barely make out the shape of a scalpel of some kind among a few needles and medications. I tipped the tray over enough for the instruments on it to slide forward, snatching the scalpel before it fell and slammed it as hard as I could into Bob’s arm. I then pulled it downward, slicing cleanly through enough tendons that he released his hold on me and allowing a rush of less-than-fresh air to once again fill my lungs.

“Pathetic,” Bob scoffed, but he was cradling the arm I’d just cut, and it looked like he was struggling to move his hand. I summoned every last ounce of strength I had and dashed at full speed for the door, but even in his injured state, Bob was still faster and stronger. Using his good arm, knocked me back, sending me stumbling towards the hospital bed. I tried to steady myself on one of the pieces of medical equipment that hadn’t been tossed around earlier, but I only managed to pull out some wiring as I fell. An alarm started blaring from the machine, and Bob suddenly stopped in his tracks. He wasn’t looking at me anymore - he was looking behind me.

I turned around to see that Henry had shot upright in his bed, a hoarse wheezing noise sputtering from his mouth. He was clawing at his chest, unable to breathe without the machine. The air around him started vibrating, and without thinking, I leapt to my feet and grabbed his arm. With a teeth-rattling crack, I felt a heavy weight nearly crush me, and I closed my eyes, thinking that Bob had gotten ahold of me again. But a moment later, the weight was gone, and I realized I could hear the sounds of cars passing by outside. Opening my eyes again, I found myself in someone’s bedroom. There were posters for popular bands plastered on the walls, and a guitar sitting on a stand in the corner. I glanced at the ground in front of me and found Henry lying there motionless. He was dead.

Running my hands through my hair, I walked over to the open window and looked outside. The tall buildings and glittering street lights illuminating wet asphalt made it was clear I was in a city - I wasn’t sure which one at the moment, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t stuck in the bunker with any more Bobs, and that was at least something. I inspected the room to see if I could get any clues as to where I was, and I discovered a wallet sitting on the dresser. Opening it up, there was a driver’s license with a picture of a vibrant young man smiling and a name: Henry Joseph Watts. I sighed. This was Henry’s room. In his final moments, he instinctively teleported himself somewhere he felt safe. He went home.

I felt terrible for him, but I also knew that it wouldn’t be wise for me to stick around and be found in Henry’s room with his dead body, especially with the condition it was in. I was already wanted as a suspected terrorist by the police, and this would definitely land me back in custody, where Tempus would have no problem getting to me again. I’m not proud of it, but seeing as Henry no longer had any use for it, I took the cash he had in his wallet and changed into some clean clothes. As I was pulling the money out, a small piece of paper slipped into my hand alongside it. The only thing scrawled on it was a phone number, but I kept it in case it might be connected to our mutual friends.

I carefully exited his room and listened for any signs of activity, but it seemed like the apartment was empty. If Henry had lived with anyone else, they at least didn’t appear to be home. I went to the fridge to grab some food, but everything was spoiled. No roommates, then. At least, I’d hope not. I rummaged through the cabinets and spotted a box of breakfast pastries, so I pocketed them. On my way out of the apartment, I grabbed a sweatshirt off the hook near the door and pulled it on.

Maybe I could’ve stayed there a bit longer - after all, if Henry had been reported missing, the police would have gone through the place already, but it didn’t look like anyone else had been there. But I had no way of knowing if Tempus would look for me at his place, since presumably, Bob saw me teleport out of the safehouse with someone else, and it seemed like the list of known teleporters was pretty short.

I think I mainly didn’t want to stay there because I didn’t want to be alone with Henry. Seeing him like that was forcing me to consider the possibility that the path I was on could very well lead me to a fate just like his, and I didn’t want to think about that right now. I needed to figure out where I was, and then find a way to contact Jonah, the General, or anyone else from the organization. They would be finishing their attack soon, and if they’d survived what very well might have been a trap, I needed to warn them about what had happened. The only thing I had to go on was that phone number, so I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head and started walking, hoping I could find one of the few payphones still in operation to give it a shot.

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